Toast of the Town: Ska pioneers The Toasters return to Toledo Oct. 27Written by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When Rob “Bucket” Hingley first came to New York City from London, he had no intention of becoming a musician.
Thirty-four years later, The Toasters’ front man is still on the road playing shows to multiple generations of fans and widely recognized as one of the pioneers of ska and 2-Tone ska here in the states.
“It was more by accident [than] by design,” Hingley said. “Like I said, I never really intended to even be in a band when I first moved here, but things happen, and sometimes they happen for a reason. But I think as far as the ska scene in New York and then what happened subsequently in the U.S., it was a snowball that, like, ran downhill and nobody could really control it.”
Birthed primarily out of Jamaican mento and calypso and American R&B and jazz, ska music gained increasing popularity in the late 1970s in England with what is now referred to as 2-Tone ska, a fusion of ska and punk rock.
Back in 1980, Hingley came to New York City from England to work on what was initially a short-term contract. That ended up getting prolonged, and he started The Toasters with a few guys he worked with at Forbidden Planet, a science fiction comic book shop in Manhattan.
“I was trying to teach them how to play ska music because that was obviously en vogue and top of the charts in the UK in the late 70s, so I was coming out of that background,” Hingley said of starting The Toasters back in 1981. “And it was surprising to me that, like, nobody in the USA really knew anything about that kind of music at all.
“It hadn’t really been marketed very well—if at all—in the states, and I remember seeing The English Beat in Roseland in 1981 playing to a half empty house.”
Thanks in large part to the hard work of Hingley and the New York City hardcore bands, that all started to change.
“The rehearsal studio that The Toasters were using at the time on Avenue Eight, we were rehearsing with the Bad Brains and the Cro-Mags, for example, in that one rehearsal studio,” Hingley said. “So yeah, we were kind of rubbing shoulders of the two scenes together. And what we did at CBGBs back in the day was we would do a ska show on Saturday night and then the hardcore bands would put together the harcore matinee on Sunday.
“So it was basically a doubleheader of ska and punk weekends, and a lot of people would travel from out of town to come and see that because they basically could go see the ska show on Saturday night and then the hardcore show the next afternoon and still, you know, get back to wherever they’re going Sunday night. So that was really successful, and I think that was one of the things that really pushed the New York scene running out into the open water where everybody could see it.”
By 1986, the New York scene was on the map. The Toasters first full-length “Skaboom!” followed in 1987 and soon ska was brought to a national level, something Hingley attributed to the New York and Boston scenes working together.
“Even though on the surface it was a rivalry, the bands really worked together to create the touring that worked,” Hingley said. “It was nothing that really happened all by itself. There was a lot of people working really hard behind the scenes to make that happen.”
Hingley also helped further ska on the artist development end when he started Moon Ska Records in 1983. Though the label closed in 2000 due to financial strains, Moon Ska Records helped give validity to ska bands all over the country.
“I think really that was some history in the making, and the Moon [Ska] Records years kind of crystallized what was positive in American ska music in the late 80s and the 90s,” Hingley said.
Nearly 35 years and 5,000 shows later, The Toasters are still touring nationally and sharing the live ska experience with fans. On Oct. 27, The Toasters will perform at Frankie’s Inner City with The Polka Floyd Show. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door for the all ages show, with doors at 8 p.m.
“We had a lot of shenanigans in that club,” Hingley said of Frankie’s. “So we always like to come back to Toledo because there’s a lot of fond memories in that room.”